It was raining heavily last night, and this morning the Weather Channel in the breakfast room was full of dread tidings of a snowstorm covering the whole of the States. Contemptuous of American hyperbole, we got in the car and began the drive to Bend, going via Astoria Column, a wonderful lookout over all the valleys surrounding Astoria, just behind the community college. We saw ample numbers of deer, and then descended the other side of the hill, occasionally seeing a car with a bit of snow on the roof.
On we travelled, down treelined roads, with a spattering of snow from time to time, evidence of something from the night before. And then the snow began to fall, and the road we followed began to resemble something more like a Christmas card, turning rapidly monochromatic.
I grew a little stressed, switched the car into the heretofore unused Snow mode, and continued into a never ending snowy road, until we came around a corner to see a snowplough stopped ahead of us, a pick up truck behind it. Just beyond was another truck, being dug out of a snowdrift.
I began to get a little bit worried. The truck, a raised Tacoma with massive tyres and a chassis four feet off the ground, was stuck. At best, it would squiggle sideways rather than go forward or back, and only with the help of several competent men with shovels and chains was it finally about to get out of the snow, and drive back down the road we’d just come. Our car, miracle of Korean technology that it is, has about eight inches of ground clearance and regular tyres. I asked the guy in the pick up truck in front of us what the road ahead was going to be like. "Worse", he said.
Still, the snowplough then went off, and by the luck of stopping off to look at some deer a bit earlier, we were the second vehicle behind it, able to enjoy the most freshly ploughed snow in Oregon. My confidence went up a bit that we’d make it through the pass.
Until, about four miles later, we stopped because there was a snowplough stuck in the snow.
Laughable as it is now, spending two hours sat still, while the huge yellow vehicle in front of us moved very little (apart from once moving out of the snowdrift it was stuck in, and then immediately sliding back into it) was a little stressful. How were we going to survive, as the range on our battery mercilessly ticked down? Was the snowplough ever going to extricate itself? What damfool idea was it of mine to subject the family to this?
Eventually the snowplough was freed, and then I almost slid into it as we went past, but then we were away, driving down a less snowy road, before returning to what felt like reality, or at least just rain, as we got out onto the highway and made it to Beaverton to have lunch and charge the car up.
Lunch was at a cute little diner, where they gave the girls beads to play with instead of crayons, and a free cookie each, and then we stuffed the car full of charge and drove down to Salem, making good time – or time enough to reach Dough Hook in time to buy doughnuts. Then another charge, next to another Ioniq 5 in a Walmart carpark, to get up to 80%, and then the long drive to Bend.
Once again, we had mountain passes to go over, the same ones we did last summer, but now covered in snow, and as we headed up them, both my wife and I became a bit nervous. Snow mode took the edge off my fears, but it was an awful lot of snow and ice and no feeling of security until we got to Sisters, and once again everything turned green, as if there’d never been any snow at all.
We stopped, picked up food, juiced the car at a free slow charger for twenty minutes, then did the last thirty-odd miles to Bend, where the snow reappeared just as we got close to the chalet we’re staying in.
By then, the filth from the road had obscured all the sensors on the car (so lane detection, blind spot warnings and smart cruise control are all AWOL until we wash the car down) but the children had survived ten hours of driving without driving us mental and we hadn’t paid a cent in fuel costs since we left Seattle on Saturday. Sometimes technology doesn’t fail you.
I am a little pessimistic about making it to Crater Lake this time, given the lower range in cold weather and the lack of fast chargers down there. But hopefully we will at least see the High Plains Museum this week. And now to bed, to recuperate from all that driving.